One recent Friday, a bunch of pals and I piled into a hired ride and headed to the beach. As the first round was being handed out, one buddy plucked a red Supreme baseball cap from his bag.
"Shit," he said. "I can't wear this."
"Why, 'cause 2005 wants it back?" I asked.
"No, I meant to pack my visor. I've sworn off hats. Can't risk going bald. My mom's dad is a cue ball. I can't take any chances."
I then asked the rest of our Long Island-bound crew what else they believed causes baldness, and both the men and the women chimed in with blithe certitude that certain hair products, blow-drying, stress, sun exposure, and hats—naturally—are all culprits.
What followed was a back-and-forth on how cheap shampoo and conditioner kill follicles, or how not using conditioner kills follicles, or how using too much shampoo or conditioner kills follicles. Coke (the beverage), coke (the powder), and smoking were all mentioned as hair-loss triggers, as were combing your hair ("Brushing is better; it massages your scalp") and even sleeping on a pillow "wrong."
Much to the chagrin of Mr. Supreme, most in the car agreed that men with bald maternal grandfathers were doomed to a lifetime of seriously close-cropped cuts.
Well, it turns out that all of it—even the maternal-grandfather maxim—is bullshit. For most men, common, gradual baldness (also known as male-pattern baldness) is essentially random genetics, writes New York-based dermatologist Gary S. Hitzig, M.D., in his book Help & Hope for Hair Loss—a conclusion that has been verified by virtually every empirical study in the past 20 years.
Still, many doctors point out that certain diseases and conditions such as hypothyroidism—as well as the use of anabolic steroids—actually can cause premature hair loss.
But assuming you're not juicing and you get a blood test every now and then, you can still work in that pomade, stress out at work, and even sport an outdated lid without fearing for the life of your locks.
—Mike Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.